- Great price
- Lets you create both ringtones and alert tones
- Includes tools to add effects to ringtones
- Ringtone editor interface is complicated
- Additional tools require add-on purchases
- Pop-up ads sometimes interfere with using the app
- Crashed the first time I launched the app
Customizing your iPhone can mean a lot of things, but one of the most common customizations is creating ringtones using the music on your iPhone. There are a lot of apps, free and otherwise, that allow you to do this. Among them is AppAnnex's Ringtone DJ, which employs a DJ-style interface to let you create your tones. But is a DJ interface simple enough to make creating a ringtone on the iPhone's small screen easy?
A Sometimes-Difficult Interface
When you launch Ringtone DJ, you have to make two choices: first, decide whether to create a 40-second ringtone or an 8-second alert tone, then select a song from your iPhone's music library to convert into a tone (assuming it's not DRM-protected; Ringtone DJ can't use DRM'ed songs). With those choices made, you head to the app's tone editor screen.
There's a lot happening on the editor screen, but the most important element is the soundwave form running across the top of the app. That soundwave represents the song (not the entire thing; you have to swipe left and right to jump to other sections of the song since the entire soundwave can't fit on the iPhone's relatively small screen). Laid over the soundwave is a window that represents the 40-second or 8-second tone you'll create. You can drag this window to capture different parts of the song. You can also tap and drag either edge of the window to make the selected section shorter or return it to the full 8- or 40-second length.
I didn't find the soundwave and window interface a particularly easy way to create a ringtone. For one thing, the soundwave is so small, and the variations in it so crammed together, that it's hard to visually distinguish one part of the song from another. There's a dial below the soundwave that gives you your location in the song by time, but there are no time markers on the soundwave itself, which would be nice. Another result of the soundwave being too small to see in detail was that I often found it hard to quickly isolate the exact part of the song I was trying to capture.
When you do get the clip you want isolated, the app lives up to its name and lets you add effects, from record scratches to delays to the ability to record your voice over the music. All of these features, though, require an in-app purchase (US$0.99 to get one, $1.99 for all of them).
With the selection made and effects applied, you can preview your ringtone. Like all ringtone apps, Ringtone DJ can't install the ringtone directly to your iPhone. Instead, you have to email it to yourself, add it to your computer, and then sync it to your phone before you can use it. Ringtone DJ includes instructions on how to do this, though they come in the form of a YouTube video. I'd prefer text, but any instructions are a good idea.
Using Ringtone DJ can be a challenge sometimes due to the interface issues noted above. Ads can also pose a problem.
Like many free apps, Ringtone DJ displays ads periodically on the app's homescreen (but not, happily, the editor screen). While they aren't a major distraction, I did encounter one instance in which they were a real problem. While most of the ads are small banners, from time to time larger, nearly fullscreen ads appear. One of these ads popped up just as the app was shifting from landscape to portrait mode. As a result, the X that would have allowed me to close the ad ended up offscreen and there was no way to move the ad to access the X, which made the app unusable. I had to kill it and start again. I doubt this is a common behavior (I haven't replicated it), but it certainly wasn't a great experience.
The Bottom Line
Creating your own ringtone can be a lot of fun and a good way to customize your iPhone. Unfortunately, Ringtone DJ probably isn't your best bet for creating them. It may be free, but there are other free ringtone apps and its frustrating interface sets it behind the competition.
What You'll Need
An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 4.2 or higher.